Contrary to common opinion, faith in God is not “blind belief” i.e., belief without evidence. It is not simply wishing and hoping something will come to pass. Faith comes through truth and the more we grow in truth, and put that truth to action, the more we will grow in faith, as the Word says- we go from faith to faith (Romans 1:17). Scripture tells us without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The early church agreed that faith was not blindly believing in God, however, they taught that Divine knowledge and action was required and in turn, our faith becomes evidence of what is unseen (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith cannot simply be taught; faith must be experienced. In fact, lack is the opportunity for faith to be built. Without lack, there would be no need for faith, as we would already have all we need. The Lord must bring us to a place of lack for us to believe for His provision, whether that be the provision for the lack in our soul (needing spiritual growth), or provision for our lives here on earth, for His kingdom purpose.
Faith requires knowledge
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
Without the Word, there is not a foundation for faith. Faith is not believing God for any random desire of our heart, faith comes by our heart’s desire lining up with God’s, through knowledge of who He is, and His Word, as He is the Word (John 1:1).
Second century early church Father Clement of Alexandria understood faith came through knowledge. He wrote: “Now neither is knowledge without faith, nor faith without knowledge.” (1) He further went on to write: “We say, then, that faith must not be inert and alone. Rather, it should be accompanied with investigation. For I do not say that we are not to inquire at all.” (1) Here, Clement confirms that faith is not a blind belief, but it requires investigation of the Word to know and understand the heart and will of God.
In another place, Clement of Alexandria writes:
“The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” (Rom 1:17) The apostle, then, manifestly announces a twofold faith, or rather one which admits of growth and perfection; for the common faith lies beneath as a foundation. To those, therefore, who desire to be healed, and are moved by faith, He added, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” (Mat 9:22) But that which is excellently built upon is consummated in the believer, and is again perfected by the faith which results from instruction and the word, in order to the performance of the commandments.” (2)
Clement states that faith comes through instruction in the Word of God. Additionally, we are shown in scripture that men and women of great faith received Divine knowledge, for example Noah: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Hebrews 11:7, emphasis added) Noah was warned by God of what was to come (Genesis 6:13) and given instruction on what to do to prepare (Genesis 6:14). He received knowledge in order for him to understand and act upon the understanding, which in turn was his faith in God.
Abraham obeyed when he was called by God to leave his home country (Hebrews 11:8). He was not given the full picture of what was to come, but he obeyed the Divine knowledge he had received and for that he was called faithful.
Through growing in our relationship with God, we understand His will for our lives and in turn we can believe for that truth to manifest, but belief is not just trusting without anything on our part, it requires action.
Faith requires action
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20
There is no proof to the common belief that to have faith we just need to simply believe in the word of God (knowledge only). In fact, scripture and the Early Church state otherwise. Throughout the Word, even in the examples given earlier regarding Noah and Abraham, they acted upon the Word they had received from God, they did not just sit back and wait for God to move. This is divine knowledge combined with action.
There are several accounts in the New Testament where through action there was healing. One of those accounts is in the Gospel of Matthew “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Matthew 9:2) Another account was where the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and she was healed. Jesus said it was because of her faith she was healed (Luke 8:48).
Furthermore, we read in James that faith without works is dead:
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:20-26, emphasis added)
Notice in this passage how belief in the Divine word combined with works, made Abraham’s faith perfect. Without works, his faith would have been left wanting. Clement of Alexandria states that for faith to be firm it must have works: “In my opinion, the faith they possessed was firm, for it was followed by works of faith.” (3)
Faith is belief and trust in the Lord because of an understanding of His heart and His will, which comes by the Word (Romans 10:7). Just as we saw scripture shows us that real faith requires Divine knowledge, and action, it is not enough for us to know the Word of God but not act upon it. True faith becomes the evidence of the unseen realm because it is evident in and through us. We become the evidence of God’s providence through Him working through us. For us to experience faith we must first experience lack, otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for faith in the first place. As we read above, those that pleased God throughout scripture were the faithful, so it is imperative we understand what faith is and how to grow in it. In this article, we have only really touched on the surface of faith, but prayerfully this has opened up a greater understanding for everyone who reads.
1. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book 5, Ch I
2. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book 5, Ch V
3. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book 7, Ch XI